Celery stalks (apium graveolens) are a member of the esteemed zero calorie vegetable group, so if they did clear acne, it would be truly brilliant.
Assuming that no hidden acne-causing toxins existed, you could eat celery all day and pile up the acne nutrition to an unlimited extent. Biting into celery is promising, as the strong taste which repels many is usually indicative of nutrition.
The undeniable truth is that celery contains a wide variety of nutrients, as claimed, but not high amounts of them. 50 grams of celery contains 1% of the RDI for magnesium, 2% for vitamin C, 4% for vitamin A, and 0% for zinc. Celery is far feebler for acne nutrition than broccoli, kale or spinach.
Where uncooked and easily available celery really shines for acne is improving blood flow to the skin.
Celery dilates your blood vessels
You might know that cured meats like ham and bacon are increasingly linked to cancer, and that organic celery powder is touted as a healthier way to make them. Why? Celery is one of the densest sources of naturally occurring nitrates, as opposed to synthetically manufactured nitrates. Celery powder contains 2.75% nitrate, and celery itself, including the leaves, is equally rich in it…
…and these nitrates are why celery is excellent for blood flow. The moment you bite into celery, benign bacteria on your tongue ferment the nitrates and produce nitrinines as metabolites. As you swallow celery, benign bacteria in your gut ferment the nitrinines and turn them into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilating gas, used for immune system functions like killing bacteria, but most importantly for relaxing blood vessels.
It’s vital for heart function and blood pressure, but also encourages blood flow to the extremities, including to your skin. With higher blood flow comes increased oxygen delivery to your skin, and massive improvements in skin tone. It’s essentially a subtler version of the alive and vibrant skin you get from hardcore exercise.
Even better, improved blood flow can prevent acne, via increased flow of acne nutrients and antioxidants. Since celery increases nitric oxide levels significantly, celery can also improve blood flow and skin tone.
This study on plant based nitrates from celery, lettuce and spinach discovered improved blood flow during both rest and exercise. Also promising is the less known 3-n-butyl phthalide (3NBP). This celery-specific compound joins forces with another one called sedanolide to provide the unique flavour of celery. 3NBP isn’t the most researched obscure compound in a vegetable, but it is well researched for enhancing blood flow. In fact, the Chinese government approved 3NBP as an official remedy for obstructed brain blood flow (cerebral ischemia) back in 2002.
This study and this study found that 3-n-butylphalide increased cerebral flood flow significantly, and in this study, by enough to prevent neuron death; could it prevent skin cell death? 3NPB is actually known to increase capillary formation in the brain, while strengthening the structure of existing capillaries and enhancing microcirculation. Improved brain blood flow isn’t guaranteed to translate to skin blood flow, but the potential is there, in addition to the proven nitrates.
Combining both compounds, we have this study on celery itself, on long term data from the mass population. Only 3 out of 12 vegetables reduced blood pressure significantly when eaten raw: celery, tomatoes, and scallions.
The great thing about celery is that you can snap off a stalk and enhance your skin’s blood flow at any time. Broccoli and kale are excellent vegetables for acne, but celery is extra convenient.
Inflammation and antioxidants
There’s some strong if not astonishing bonus powers too, and the first is reducing inflammation. There’s one celery expert called James Duke who claims to have identified over 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery. Is he correct? One of the flavonoid antioxidants in celery is called luteolin. This compound is able to decrease numerous pro-inflammatory chemicals behind acne, including interleukin-1b, TNF-a, and COX-2, in both the brain and blood.
The problem? Luteolin is claimed to be celery’s signature compound by almost everyone, but its levels are actually normal. The content of 1.05mg per 100 grams beats broccoli (0.00mg), spinach (0.74mg) and kale (0.00mg), but is actually beaten by red grapes (1.30mg). The myth might have started because Chinese celery, a thinner Asian subspecies with more leaves, contains 34.87mg per 100 grams.
A far superior flavonoid is apigenin, found in celery in concentrations of 2.85mg per 100 grams. Apigenin strongly inhibited the pro-inflammatory chemical COX-2 in one study, the same pain-increasing agent which aspirin inhibits. This time, celery’s content of apigenin is beaten by parsley (215.46mg), but few mainstream foods, although if you’re stuck in China, you’re in luck because Chinese celery contains 24.02mg.
Grocery store celery is decently anti-inflammatory, and for antioxidants, it’s also decent. The antioxidants found in celery include apigenin and luteolin, and also quercetin, kaempferol, and ferulic acid.
Most are found in good but not monstrous doses. For example, quercetin is found in 0.39mg concentrations in celery compared to 15.16mg in boiled asparagus, 14.84mg in raw cranberries, and 21.4mg in raw brown onions. However, celery does have powers to enhance your body’s own antioxidant factories; this study found that celery’s antioxidants increased the body’s superoxide dismutase and catalase output, in addition to glutathione-s-transferase, which detoxifies heavy metals and pesticides.
Always eat the leaves of celery. They’re the strongest tasting part, and that’s a sign of a well known fact – that most of the antioxidants are concentrated there. You should therefore always hunt down the celery bunch with the most leaves, because some bunches contain next to none.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are weaker than other green vegetables, but excellent as bonus acne benefits. The main reason to eat celery is vasodilation.
The one factor that can ruin celery
Celery stalks have very few innate downsides. The sugar is non-existent at 1.8 grams per 100 grams. Celery is a happy low to moderate oxalate foods, with just 11-20mg, unlike spinach and almonds with 750-800mg and 380-470mg respectively. Oxalates are the plant toxins behind kidney stones, which usually have no effect on acne, but can increase inflammation in the sensitive.
Celery isn’t a food with strong acne benefits but hidden natural dangers like pistachios, which you have to carefully arrange. The only obstacle is completely artificial – pesticides.
Celery is easily among the worst agricultural crops for pesticide, herbicide, and insecticide contamination. Year after year, celery ranks in the dirty dozen of contaminated foods. In 2010, celery ranked 1st, in 2014, 4th, while in 2017’s edition, celery ranked 9th behind strawberries, peaches and apples. There’s been a gradual decontamination, but 9th out of 48 commercial crops tested is pretty grim.
One villain is an insecticide called acephate, designed to kill biting and sucking insects such as aphids. Acephate was detected on 34.7% of celery crops in 2010, and pertinently for acne, is strongly linked to increased oxidative stress when ingested. Acephate is strong enough that scientists commonly use it in experiments to suppress antioxidants before testing a remedy that increases them.
Acephate is also toxic to human sperm and a strong xenoestrogen. If you know anybody who’s struggling to conceive a baby, then celery could be why. Acephate has a half life of 10 to 15 days, but after that long, your celery will be rotting away.
This is just one example. The thing about pesticides in fruit and vegetables is that one individual source won’t be strong enough to derail your skin. But the more pesticide-drenched foods you eat, the more the depletion in antioxidants accumulates. It’s like chemicals in cosmetics; one lathering agent you swallow while brushing your teeth with toothpaste won’t give you acne, but add in mouthwash, tap water, shampoo, make-up, and handwash chemicals which are absorbed through the skin, and your fate will be different.
That’s why you should always eliminate as many minor sources of acne-causing environmental chemicals as you can. Show no mercy to any of them, including celery, to avoid cumulative damage.
Some overly relaxed people might recommended simply washing celery under a tap to remove the pesticides. Well, before their agrochemical examinations, the FDA not only washes celery, they wash it with a high power industrial washing machine, and it still ends up laden with pesticides.
The advantage is that organic celery is one of the cheaper organic vegetables, unlike organic raspberries or blueberries. Celery has also been compared to its conventional counterpart. Calcium and magnesium levels were no different, but ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, was 118.18% higher in the organic celery, while zinc was 47.93% higher. Those nutrients are almost non existent in celery anyway, but the more rewarding implication is that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds might also become richer.
If you’re hunting for acne nutrition on a tight budget, then sweetcorn (non acne-friendly), avocados, pineapples, cabbage and onions (all excellent for acne) were the five cleanest crops in 2017.
A brain health booster?
Over the last decade, the thickest clouds of speculation swirling around celery have been its memory enhancing powers. Are they real? Celery can enhance your brain health, but the powers are weak, because they centre around luteolin. Luteolin itself is interesting:
STUDY ONE: the study which gave celery its reputation tested luteolin on mice, who woke up and found themselves trapped in a maze. 26 adult and 26 young mice were fed 20mg of luteolin daily. Their spatial awareness shot up, allowing them to escape the maze. The older, senile mice taking luteolin performed equally to the younger mice taking nothing.
STUDY TWO: luteolin supplementation restored the spatial awareness and memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease (study).
STUDY THREE: once again, luteolin reversed learning and memory deficits in rats, and improved transmissions between brain synapses as well (study). The conclusion: “flavonoid luteolin shows great potential… for protecting synaptic function and enhancing memory“.
STUDY FOUR: a massive brain change associated with Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid plaques, which mostly consist of amyloid-β peptides. In this rat study, luteolin reversed both memory and learning impairments caused by amyloid-β peptide accumulation. Brain antioxidant levels also increased, with glutathione and superoxide dismutase rising.
Luteolin antioxidant is promising for memory, but like with inflammation, the amount in celery is too small. Celery contians 1.05mg: the first study used 20mg and humans are much bigger than mice too.
Again, a myth has spread that celery is an amazing luteolin source, when it’s slightly better than most vegetables. There will only be a small benefit, although there is also the cerebral brain flow-boosting 3-n-butylphalide…
…but the opportunity isn’t lost. Why? You can eat the real luteolin-rich foods instead. Chinese celery contains 34.87mg per 100 grams. The greatest known sources of luteolin are mexican oregano (1028.75mg), celery seed spice (811.41mg), juniper berries (69.05mg), thyme (45.25mg), and radicchio (37.96mg). The strength of celery seeds is another explanation for celery’s reputation.
Among popular foods, thyme is easily accessible, and there’s also sage (16.70mg) and parsley (19.75mg). You can buy celery seeds in bulk on amazon and use them as a spice in recipes. Herbs and spices are the way forward.
Fruits and vegetables which rank similarly to celery include red grapes (1.30mg), green kiwi fruits (0.74mg), chicory greens (2.08mg), canataloupe melons (0.64mg), and lemons (1.90mg). If you combine various foods which are merely decent like this, including celery, the brain benefits might finally appear. It’s like the opposite of the pesticide problem; celery itself is disappointing, but much better when combined with other luteolin sources.
If you’re both a brain boosting obsessive and an acne-clearing enthusiast, those are some top foods to include.
Celery is inferior to broccoli, kale, and spinach for raw acne-clearing strength, but organic celery beats them easily for improving blood flow to the skin instantaneously. Spinach is also rich in natural nitrates, but you can’t grab a handful of leaves and eat them in five seconds.
In a one on one duel, broccoli would beat celery, particularly for antioxidants and inflammation. However, celery also illustrates how different foods have different roles in your acne strategy, and why the smart acne patient eats a wide variety.
Organic celery improves blood flow, while broccoli has the anti-inflammatory compound sulforaphane. Kale has high amounts of vitamin A while onions and garlic provide the raw materials for glutathione formation through their high sulphur content.
Some fruits and vegetables might beat others head to head, but almost every plant food has one hidden power for acne, aside from maybe cucumbers.
Thanks for reading!